At our regular November meeting of the Society we were pleased to welcome Mr George Gascoyne, an historian, who gave an interesting illustrated and informative talk entitled “The History of the Lickey Hills”. The talk generated much interest among a number of people present because, as youngsters living in South Birmingham in the 1940’s 50’s and 60’s the Lickey Hills was the place to go to at weekends, both in the summer and the winter. In the summer to play across what seemed like vast open spaces and forest areas and to pick bluebells and bilberries to take home to parents. In the winter it was for the fun and excitement of sledging down Beacon Hill and across the golf course. However Mr Gascoyne gave us all an insight into many other aspects of the hills and the area in general and also some fascinating local history. He mentioned the Romans building their road known as “The Saltway” over the hills and went on to talk about the arrival of the Normans and the creation of the Royal Forest of Feckenham and the Court meetings which were held upon the hills. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the talk centred upon the village of what is today known as Cofton Hackett, just to the north of Bilberry Hill. We learned however that the name COFTON is not in fact strictly correct because in the 1600,s the Manor of Coston Hackett was the home of the Jolliffe family, strong supporters of the Monarchy during the Civil war. On maps made during the 1600’s medieval script always depicted an “s” rather more like an elongated “f” and at some more recent time, i.e. after 1831, map makers seem to have translated that “s” into an “f” hence today’s name of Cofton Hackett.
The Jollife family eventually sold the manor to Other Archer who later inherited the title of Lord Windsor, that family eventually becoming the Earls of Plymouth in 1804. Other Archer is remembered in Redditch today by the road names Other Road and Archer Road.
One last fact given by Mr Gascoyne was that after the Battle of Worcester, during the Civil War. King Charles sought refuge for the night at Coston Hall. On leaving the next morning the Hall was set on fire to prevent Parliamentarian army being able to make use of it!